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Choose the letter which begins musical term that you would like to learn about:


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

P
PianoAbbreviation for piano, soft.

Pacato
Calm, quiet.

Passing tones
Unaccented notes which move conjunctly between two chords to which they do not belong harmonically.

Pausa
A rest.

Pensieroso
Contemplative, thoughtful.

Percussion family
Instruments made of sonorous material that produce sounds of definite or indefinite pitch when shaken or struck, including drums, rattles, bells, gongs, and xylophones.

Perfect
A term used to label fourth, fifth, and octave intervals. It corresponds to the major, as given to seconds, thirds, sixths, and sevenths.

Perfect authentic cadence
A special cadence in which both the dominant (V) and tonic (I) chords have their root in the bass and the soprano ascends of descends stepwise to the root of the tonic.

Perfect cadence
The chordal progression of dominant to tonic, in a major key V-I, in minor V-i.

Perfect interval
Interval of an octave, fifth, or fourth without alteration.

Perfect pitch
The ability to hear and identify a note without any other musical support.

Perfect plagal cadence
A plagal cadence in which the soprano note remains unchanged in the progression IV-I.

Pesante
Heavy.

Petite
Little.

Peu a peu
Little by little.

Phrase
A relatively short portion of a melodic line which expresses a musical idea, comparable to a line or sentence in poetry.

Phrygian cadence
A harmonic close which originaled in the Phrygian mode as the final cadence. In modern usage, it is any transposition of the progression IV6 to VSharp

Pianissimo
Pianissimo, very soft Very soft.

Pianississimo
Pianississimo, super soft Very, very soft; the softest common dynamic marking.

Piano
Piano, soft Soft. Pianoforte.

Pianoforte
"Soft-loud." A keyboard instrument, the full name for the piano, on which sound is produced by hammers striking strings when keys are pressed. It has 88 keys.

Picardy third
The term for the raising of the third, making a major triad, in the final chord of a composition which is in a minor key. The practice originated about 1500 and extended through the Baroque period.

Pitch
The highness or lowness of a tone, as determined by the number of vibrations in the sound.

Piu
More. Used with other terms, e.g. piu mosso, more motion.

Pizzicato
"Pinched." On string instruments, plucking the string.

Plagal cadence
Sometimes called the "amen" cadence because it is often used at the end of hymns. The chordal progression of subdominant to tonic, in a major key IV-I, in minor iv-i.

Poco
Little. Used with other terms, e.g. poco accel., also, poco a poco, little by little.

Poco ced., Cedere
A little slower.

Poco piu mosso
A little more motion.

Poi
Then or afterwards, e.g. poi No. 3, then No. 3.

Postlude
"Play after." The final piece in a multi-movement work. Organ piece played at the end of a church service.

Prelude
"Play before." An introductory movement or piece.

Premiere
First performance.

Prestissimo
Very, very fast. The fastest tempo.

Presto
Very quick.

Primo
First.

Principal
Instrumental section leader.

Prologue
An introductory piece that presents the background for an opera.


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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Some definitions and terms excerpted from
Belwin Pocket Dictionary of Music: Music Theory Dictionary
By Dr. William Lee
Students may purchase a copy for home use at cost
A line of music

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